Son Raw is finely textured

What is instrumental music about? It’s a question I struggle with when reviewing beats because fundamentally, the answer is nothing. Yet as humans (or barring that, music writers) we constantly search for meaning and representation in sounds that are completely abstract, to make sense of the emotions they conjure in us. For club tunes, the spaces they’re meant to be played in make for an easy representational allegory. Doesn’t House sound like a sweaty club or a beautiful night in Ibiza? Doesn’t Techno remind you of a frigid Detroit warehouse or Berlin sex dungeon? And Dubstep, well that just screams “dirty cellar full of weed smoking rudeboys.”

Yet divorced from these easy spatial reference points where the music is actually experienced, things get harder to classify. Grime sounds like a musical representation of city streets but… why? Is the association purely due to the emcees who (now sometimes) spit on the stuff, or does it go deeper? Listening to Strict Face’s Marble Isles, a release I’ve been sitting with for the past month that I wanted to review while our site was down, all I can think of is futuristic cityscapes, and I’m struggling for figure out why. For one thing, the artist comes from Adelaide Australia and not London or Hong Kong. Google Images tells me it’s a nice place, urban enough with good weather, unlikely to be the scene of either a gang land scene or a Blade Runner remake. The images my mind conjures when listening to Slow Fields and In Evergreen  are thus purely imaginary – a video game I haven’t played or a downtown district that doesn’t exist. The music is cinematic but there’s no film to go with it, something that doesn’t take away from it so much as adds an extra layer of opaqueness, making the record more intriguing.

New Grime’s distance from the London Streets that birthed it can have a strange effect. I hear dozens of tunes a week whose main reference points seem to be the Internet, a trend I’m completely against since life online is a poor substitute for the outside world. Marble Isles however, seems based on a real places, emotions, and experiences. I just have no idea if they exist in our reality or in Strict Face’s head. Either way, it’s arresting music worth hearing.

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